NYC Council passes resolution supporting Trinidadian immigrant rights activist

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(CMC) — The New York City Council has approved a resolution supporting Trinidadian-born immigrant rights activist Ravi Ragbir who faces deportation to his country.

The resolution — introduced by Grenadian American Council Member Jumaane D Williams and his City Council colleague Ydanis Rodriguez — calls on the United States Congress to pass HR 4937, a bill by New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, to give Ragbir legal permanent status in the United States.

Ravi Ragbir, center, with City Council members Jumaane Williams, left, and Ydanis Rodriguez in March after a check-in with immigration officials. (New York Times photo)

The measure would also give Ragbir “a legal right to return to the United States,” if deported, according to Williams, who, with Rodriguez, were among 18 people arrested protesting Ragbir’s detention on January 11 during a routine immigration check-in at 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan.

“This is one of many efforts by the Council to advocate for Ravi to stay in the United States with his family and community he has built,” Williams told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), adding “I stand with Ravi, and I’m heartened that the City Council stand with him as well.

“As Donald Trump and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agency aggressively target immigrants for immoral deportation, we in New York have a moral obligation to stand against this xenophobia — not just for Ravi Ragbir but for the thousands of immigrants under threat who lack the widespread support that Ravi has rightly received,” he added.

“I thank Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez for taking federal action to protect Ravi, and my colleagues on the council, including council member Ydanis Rodriguez and chair of the committee on immigration, council member Carlos Menchaca, and speaker Corey Johnson for taking up this cause with such conviction,” Williams added.

Rodriguez, a council member from Manhattan, said “a vote in support of Ravi is a vote in support of the millions of all deportation vulnerable Americans who contribute billions of dollars to our economy.

“It is a vote to uphold every person’s right to due process and to live in dignity. I proudly stand with Council Members Jumaane Williams and Carlos Menchaca in introducing this resolution, and call on Congress and the President to pass and sign HR 4937.”

Menchaca said he was glad to see “the outpour of support for one of New York’s most passionate immigrant rights leaders, Ravi Ragbir.

“I support the bill introduced by US Representative Nydia Velazquez, which would allow Ravi to pursue lawful status and call upon Congress to pass this legislation.

“The coming together of grassroots organisations, the legal community, and Ravi’s friends and allies serves as a great example of what we can accomplish when we organise and mobilise together,” Menchaca said, adding “now it is time to do the same for those immigrants whose names and faces we don’t know and who, like Ravi, live in constant fear of being deported and separated from their families”.

Last Saturday, hundreds of supporters rallied in lower Manhattan in demonstrating support for Ragbir, 53, whose detention sparked several protests in New York last month.

“They want to make America white again,” Ragbir told the rally, adding “but America was never white in the first place.

“Am I a national security problem? “Am I colluding with Russia? We know that there is a movement to remove people of colour, to learn that there is an ethnic cleansing being created by this administration. And it’s very hard words, but let’s be real about what we are seeing.”

Ragbir, the executive director of the New York-based New Sanctuary Coalition, and several organisations supporting him have filed a lawsuit against ICE, the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of Justice, alleging that he was targeted because of his activism.

He was granted a stay of deportation to allow for the briefing and consideration of the suit, according to AM New York.

Lawyers defending Ragbir said the US government has agreed to stay Ragbir’s deportation temporarily.

The lawsuit seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction, restraining the government from taking further action to force a deportation order against Ragbir.

It also seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction “restraining the government from selectively enforcing immigration laws against individuals based on protected political speech.”

But ICE has denied targeting immigrants based on their advocacy work or comments, saying in a statement that “any suggestion to the contrary is irresponsible, speculative and inaccurate.” A judge ordered Ragbir’s release from ICE detention on January 29, ruling that his detention was “unnecessarily cruel.”

Once released, he was ordered to report to ICE for deportation on Saturday, February 10. But, last Friday, his legal defence team said he was no longer required by ICE to check in.

Ragbir was issued a green card in 1994 after migrating in 1991, but he was convicted of wire fraud in 2001 and served 30 months in federal prison.

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